Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a term used to describe a certain set of difficult experiences (symptoms) that some people have. The diagnosis of BPD is based on an assessment of these symptoms over time and across a range of situations.

Experiences of Borderline Personality Disorder include difficulties with...

  • Emotions and strong overwhelming feelings

People with BPD describe overwhelming, almost constant emotional pain. Strong emotions are easily triggered. Some people have learned to cope with this by putting a lid on most emotions. The need to dampen down emotions can result in feelings of deadness, unreality and boredom. Problems with anger are common and may include feeling angry a lot of the time, with the possibility of violent or aggressive behaviour when angry.

  • Relationships

People can experience strong and changeable feelings of love and hate, and great sensitivity to signs of rejection or criticism. Along with this goes a tendency not to trust people and difficulty coping with losses and separations. Commonly there are problems with feelings of dependency either feeling very dependent or trying to avoid dependency or closeness.

  • Impulsive, often destructive behaviour

This often involves deliberate self-harm or suicide attempts in response to feeling emotionally overwhelmed. Self-harm can bring some momentary, short-term relief from suffering, however it has other long term negative consequences. Abuse of drugs or alcohol, binge eating and problem gambling may also be attempts at coping with feelings.

  • Fragile sense of self

This involves problems in experiencing or identifying a consistent sense of self or identity. Maintaining a clear sense of one's own feelings and thoughts can be difficult. When particularly stressed some people can withdraw, leaving them feeling vulnerable and alone. At times like this paranoia is common. This usually passes when the level of stress reduces.

Trauma and BPD

A history of trauma, abuse or deprivation is common. Many people have post-traumatic symptoms, such as nightmares, flashbacks, dissociative states (spacing out), panic symptoms and feelings of unreality.

For some people the negative, very critical experiences they have had can come back as internal, punishing self-talk or sometimes as voices. It is as if there is an actual voice outside (in the real world), making nasty, destructive comments that can be difficult to ignore. This is likely to be worse at times of increased stress.

How common is BPD?

It is estimated that at any point in time, 1.8% of the general population experience BPD. About 75% of these are females (males are more likely to be diagnosed with other disorders).

Discrimination and BPD

When someone deliberately hurts themselves as a way of coping, others find it hard to understand. Unfortunately because so little is known or understood about BPD, many people will at some stage come face to face with the prejudice and discrimination that result from this. This can be extremely alienating. It is vital to remember that BPD is a genuine condition and that help is available.

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